Secondary Research Behind Designing the first ever exclusive Vipassana Meditation App: A Case Study

Surabhi Siddaiah
5 min readMay 1, 2023

DESIGN RESEARCH CASE STUDY

Disclaimer

This article acts as a repository of all the data I collected during the research process before working on the app design.

Overview

The project was a part of the @10kdesigners Product Design masterclass. It is my first attempt at conducting secondary research to understand what vipassana meditation is, the status quo, what’s and how’s of the technique/process, and take informed design decisions.

What is Vipassana Meditation?

To practice Vipassana, one should have attended the 10-day course at any Vipassana Center, which S N Goenka started. Vipassana centers function purely on donation and volunteer work and are never advertised or marketed (hence, only a few know about it).

In Vipassana, the meditator uses his concentration as a tool by which his awareness can chip away at the wall of illusion that cuts him off from the living light of reality.

It is a gradual process of ever-increasing awareness into the inner workings of reality itself. It takes years, but one day the meditator chisels through that wall and tumbles into the presence of light.

Understanding why the Vipassana meditation course is very demanding both physically and mentally

Vipassana is quite different from the ones that are practiced using modern popular apps like Headspace, Calm, Insight, etc. Most sessions on these apps are often guided by a guide, or sounds and stories. Anybody can access it by downloading the apps online.

To practice Vipassana, one needs to apply for a 10-day course at any Vipassana/Dhamma Centre (available across the globe).

Code of Discipline

The Schedule for a 10-day course
https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/about/code

If you take up a vipassana course for the first time, the schedule seems nerve-racking as you will experience a number of very difficult periods, or mental storms.

Vipassana Statistics

  • 74 centers in India
  • 168 centers all over the world
  • Additional 129 non-centers managed by Vipassana students
https://korea.dhamma.org/photos/

Centre slots need to be booked 2–3 months in advance due to their popularity & slots

Popular Celebs who practice Vipassana

https://www.vridhamma.org/

Vipassana in Media

Sources: Moneycontrol The New York Times NewScientist NPR IndiaToday Femina

Defining the target audience

Individuals who are interested in:

  • Developing mindfulness, self-awareness, and inner peace
  • Reducing stress and improving overall well-being
  • Spiritual practice, as it is often considered to be a form of Buddhist meditation
  • Self-improvement is a way to improve themselves and achieve personal growth
  • Addiction recovery as it helps them to develop mindfulness and self-awareness, which can be powerful tools in the recovery process
  • Highly self-motivated individuals

Competitive Analysis

Apps that already offer habit tracking for Vipassana meditation or similar mindfulness practices:

Most of these apps have similar features like a meditation timer, guided meditations, notification reminders, interactions, and gamification within their mindfulness experiences.

Dhamma App Screenshots

Identifying Problems

  • There is only one app dedicated to Vipassana Meditation exclusively
  • No habit tracking or progress tracking
  • Limited customization/personalization options
  • Limited languages (available only in English)
  • Apps provide a basic introduction to the technique, but may not offer detailed guidance or instruction on how to practice it correctly.
  • Limited offline access
  • Limited resources: not much information on the history and philosophy of Vipassana
  • Absence of community-building features, such as forums or social media groups

Defining a Problem Statement

Re-Design the official Dhamma/Vipassana app for tracking and managing Daily vipassana meditation practice

Why Redesign?

  • The Dhamma app is the official app dedicated just to Vipassana
  • It has more than 1L downloads on Play Store
  • The most convenient way to book courses, attend live sessions
  • Available in 25+ different languages
  • A complete wealth of audio, video, and written resources

Visual Competitive Analysis

Sattva

Fabulous

Calm

Headspace

Insight Timer

CHATGPT Prompts

Check out all prompts here

Defining Primary Goals

  • The app should include an effective habit tracker:
    Like personalized goal-setting, progress tracking, and reminder notifications
  • To differentiate the app from competitors:
    The app should include unique features that set it apart from other Vipassana meditation apps on the market, such as booking offline and live sessions, offline access to guided meditations, customized background and ambient music, and integration with other devices such as a smartwatch
  • To provide a strong community feature:
    The app should include a community feature where users can connect with other practitioners, share their experiences, organize events, etc.

The MoSCoW Method

Feature prioritization is another vital part of the Design Thinking Process because it requires us to focus on the ideas that matter the most.

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Surabhi Siddaiah

Fitness-focused designer | Sometimes I start writing an article and have no idea where it's going. Hope to find it along the way. ✨